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technology it lacked before, GenTegra CEO Bruce Jamieson says. “I think it’s an ideal partnership because we provide the chemistry for stabilizing the molecules, but we have nothing for collecting the blood sample,” he says. “When you put the two together, it’s a really powerful combination.”
GenTegra was founded in 2013 after purchasing the former GenVault Corp.’s biomolecule stabilization products from IntegenX. The technology, Jamieson says, involves drying out biological samples and applying chemicals that defend against harmful enzymes, air, and water—three natural predators that degrade nucleic acids and other related molecules. GenTegra’s products seal off the desired molecules in a protective cocoon, similar to how dinosaur DNA has been preserved in fossils for millions of years, he says.
The design is still being worked out, Jamieson says, but the idea with the Tasso partnership is the inside of the HemoLink would be packed with tiny plastic beads coated with GenTegra’s protective chemicals. The blood would get dried out and preserved inside the HemoLink, then shipped to the lab, where water would get added to its contents to return the blood to liquid form, Jamieson says. “What you get back is essentially fresh, whole blood,” he adds. (Dry stabilization of liquid samples has been around for a number of years, and GenVault was a pioneer about a decade ago, Jamieson says. These days, GenTegra is competing against Biomatrica, for example.)
As part of the DARPA grant, GenTegra will attempt to prove that this process doesn’t damage the integrity of the blood and that researchers can still siphon off the biomarkers necessary for diagnostic tests, Jamieson says. “We’ve done some preliminary work, but we’ve got to prove it across more disease states, more biomarkers.”
And while GenTegra’s current products preserve just DNA and RNA, the new formulation for the Tasso device will try to preserve all of the enzymes, proteins, and other molecules found in blood “that are of interest to researchers or diagnosticians,” Jamieson says.